Florida Test Scores Rise as Common Core Looms

Florida students are doing better than ever on their end-of-year exams. Approximately 65% of first-time test takers passed the algebra exam needed to graduate, up from 64% last year.

Top scores also were reported in US history, geometry, and biology. These scores are great news for districts, as they are used to calculate the public school's A to F grades.

Each exam is scored on a rating of 1-5. Students must receive at least a 3 to pass and be considered skillful in the subject.

"This is just a testimony to the great work that is being done in our districts and in our schools and in our classrooms," said Pam Stewart, Florida's Commissioner of Education. "Even though we see an improvement in all of those areas, we will continue to strive to make sure every student is successful."

Passing the history exam also means a special "scholar" designation on students' diplomas, an honor that was first offered this year. About 65% of students passed the history exam, up 10 percentage points from last year. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart believes this to be a result of higher numbers of Advanced Placement students taking the exam in order to get the special designation.

Palm Beach County showed the highest level of improvement, writes Karen Yi of The Sun Sentinel.

"Overall, we are very pleased with the results and we are very thankful for the efforts of our teachers, parents and students," said Natalia Powers, spokeswoman for the district. "Needless to say, there's a road ahead of us and we will not be completely satisfied until we see 100% proficiency with all of our students."

Natalia Powers, spokeswoman The School District of Palm Beach County, believes the AP students, who take the test in middle school, are responsible for the boost in algebra test scores. Middle school students taking the classes are more advanced than their high school counterparts. Middle schools in the district accounted for the highest test scores in the district, with two schools having 99% of their students pass.

"If it's a middle school student taking high school courses, it tells you the kind of student he or she is," said Powers.

Lisa Gartner for The Tampa Bay Times reports that despite this news, there are still 72,000 students needing to retake the math test. This exam is the most important; as students must pass in order to receive a diploma. The other exams account for 30% of a student's total grade.

A summer school "algebra boot camp" will be offered to students, with the option to take a retest of the exam in July.

In 2015, Florida students will see a new algebra exam that is aligned with the Common Core standards. The new test is expected to be much harder than the previous model, according to Leslie Postal for The Orlando Sentinel.

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